Friday, September 9, 2011
THE NEWS AND VIEWS OF SOUTHEAST EUROPE
ROMA PLIGHT SURFACES AGAIN IN BAIA MARE
BY PAUL CIOCOIU FOR SOUTHEAST EUROPEAN TIMES
Months after a controversy surrounding the building of a segregation wall, Baia Mare -- a city of 200,000 in the country's northwest -- has again come under fire.
City authorities say they plan to relocate over 2,000 Roma who live mostly in makeshift dwellings. They will be moved to a yet-to-be-built neighbourhood for social cases outside the city on the banks of the Craica River.
Local NGOs and other institutions are sharply criticising the city government's plan, however. They echo concerns voiced by Amnesty International and other organisations that the move is discriminatory.
The US Embassy in Bucharest has also questioned the move. "Roma inhabitants were not notified of the planned demolition and city authorities have declared their intent to evict these people without regard for their health or safety," the embassy said in a press release.
Marian Mandache, head of the Roma NGO Romani Criss, says that putting five different Roma communities together will result in the five small problems of those communities becoming one larger problem.
"There is the risk of a conflict breaking out anytime among them," Mandache told SETimes, adding that his group had communicated the drawbacks of the plan to the mayor and other city authorities.
"We asked for people to be consulted in a serious manner; not to disconnect those communities from the city; and finally, to change the location of the future social neighbourhood where these Roma are planned to be moved, because the place is right next to the water cleaning station and a former waste dump," he said.
As an alternative, the NGO has proposed constructing the new community on the very site where the Roma now live.
"Why buy lots of land outside the city and not use the current one which will be vacated after the dwellings are demolished?" he said.
Mayor Catalin Chereches, however, is sticking to the current plan.
"Of course we have spoken to them; everything is done according to the manual. We have had this plan going on for three months and we spoke to every Roma there and the local Roma organisations," Chereches told SETimes, insisting that the US Embassy had been deliberately misinformed by NGOs.
"There is this poverty hotbed where people have been living in makeshift barracks for about 17 years, with no running water, sewage, electric power or central heating," Chereches said. "Does anyone want these people to keep living in the same dire conditions instead of offering them a decent standard of living?"
"We are observing the law and we are putting order in this community," Chereches said. The new neighbourhood, he added, will be built in a strategic location that cannot be disclosed now.
Posted by Morgan at 2:11 PM